Jun 6, 2018
My Mountain Climbing Team
In two days, I will be officially graduating this place. I will be part of the first graduating class of 6–14's. (Computer Science, Economics, and Data Science) But the most important thing that I take with me isn't the piece of paper, but the lifelong ties to the people who I grew with together (bet you guessed that).
One of the primary reasons I chose MIT was to find Good People(TM). I didn't really know what that meant at the time, but I knew that I wanted to find down-to-earth, genuine people that wanted to do good in the world. The past few years, I've been learning what that means to me, but I never forgot this passage that on Admissions that started it all:
"When we admit a class of students to MIT, it's as if we're choosing a 1,100-person team to climb a very interesting, fairly rugged mountain - together. …We are emphatically not looking for a batch of identical perfect climbers; we are looking for a richly varied team of capable people who will support, surprise and inspire each other."
So when I was applying to MIT, I had to answer this prompt:
"Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?(*) (200-250 words)."
And this is what I said.
"I aspire to be part of a community that inspires me to create, challenges me to accept who I am, and encourages me to develop my interests."
A place where ideas are as fluid as electrons in an E-field, motivating me to learn how to create and then create. Like my clubs, a community of people I share and develop interests with, enthusiasms pool together in a common interest.
Constantly evolving and revolving around ideas as if one large club, the place would recruit a remarkable amount of energy to help pull it and me forward. A place that redefines myself and has mirrors showing different reflections making me question and reaffirm who I am.
In my school's community I've had plentiful opportunities to challenge myself through unrestricted advanced level classes. However my peers challenge me even more to raise my own expectations of what I can achieve.
Like one great big group test where we work to help one another, the community would push each of us towards our goals. A place where I feel that people around me are balloons always pulling me upwards.
Surrounding me are my friends, mentors, and family who constantly encourage me to not just go with the wind but find my own direction and horizon. I look up to them, aspiring to integrate individual qualities that they've developed and that I admire.
I dream of redefining my world through this community while being honest in what I do, believe, and want so that I can feel and create my own freedom in how I change."
Well, somehow I stumbled out of this place having found just that.
(The following is a non-exhaustive list)
The people who challenge me:
- My 15.276(Communicating with Data) Instructor who, after I received a lowest-in-class grade for a presentation, recorded frame by frame comments in my video recording so that I could watch and learn from
- My flatmate Emily T '17 who doesn't let me make excuses for leaving dirty dishes all over our kitchen
The people who create with me:
- Previous pika(independent living group) housemates who, together we maintained and upkept a house of 27+ people and made dinner for each other every night with Vegan, Vegetarian, and gluten-free options
- Friends that sang "If you're voting and you know it, clap your hands" to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it" after a full day of talking to students and helping people vote in this Fall's Cambridge City Council Election
- Tho T '20 who studied with me in the Stud for four days straight for the 6.036(Machine Learning) final and together helped each other learn an immense amount of content
The people who help me see myself:
- Economics TAs who spent way past sunset hours crash coursing me in fundamental Microecon 101 and Econometrics I was missing and helped me see myself who could more intuitively understand Economics
- Hallmates who helped stress-buzz my hair and set me on a path of never having to pay for a haircut ever again and just doing it myself
The people who helped get me past my own limits:
- Zoë R '17 who worked with me all semester, shaping up my study and reading habits while helping me understand what it means (and why it is necessary for self-sustainability) to be kind to myself
- Xiaolu, my MIT Mental Health therapist who worked with me for two years, helping me understand that yes I do in fact have ADHD, and no I'm not taking advantage of it, and yes you are that scatterbrained and here's how we can work with that.
The people who inspire me:
- Friends like Duncan Wheeler '18 who's doing a PhD in oceanography to pursue policy and science together by helping better predict the impact and trend of climate disasters
- My other flatmate Amber H '10 who's starting a non-profit to better predict international high-risk conflict zones from climate change effects after doing Course 2 stuff in developing countries
And the people who helped me to freedom:
- Admissions blogs readers like you who, after my very stressed out post now almost over a month ago, sent me such wonderful and thoughtful emails of encouragement. Seeing parents and friends say things like "I could've written that exact thing" made suffering, so much more bearable.
- My other other flatmate Thomas D '15 who helped me crash study for the 6.046 final 12–5am the night before the exam- which helped me pull a B W00T!!!!
- Mindblowingly generous friends who helped financially support me this semester when personal circumstance blew all such security out the window
- And Phoebe Wang (1995–2014), who despite her passing my freshman year, had been so critical in helping me even consider applying as a fellow and recent Conestoga HS alum. I carry her memory knowing that while she wasn't able to graduate, she most definitely is a part of mine.
tl;dr I got through MIT with a fuckton of help
I promise you that counterfactual world me without help wouldn't have and I don't need to have "Economics" in my degree to tell you that.
I consider myself ridiculously lucky. Without all of this, I easily would be writing something very different right now, and that kind of fear motivates me to give back, help others who are still struggling on their way up.
But meanwhile, the view at the top of this summit is breathtaking and I'm taking a moment to breathe, recover, and rest. As I catch up with friends and hang out at Senior Week events, I can tell I'm getting high off low-oxygen altitude, selectively forgetting what it was like to struggle for long days and nights at MIT.
I can't tell you whether it is worth it. Not while knowing that I have friends who weren't as lucky. They either never made it to the top or are currently living in intense uncertainty about it. Some of those same friends inspire me with their resilience to dig themselves out of sudden avalanches and come out maybe even steadier than most.
But I can tell you that what I hoped for when I entered this place, which was to be broken down and built back up, was definitely done.
I'm lucky because Good People(TM) took the time to slow down, stop, sometimes even turn around on their ascent, to make sure that I didn't stay down. #peopleoverpsets
Therefore for me, I leave MIT satisfied and comforted by having fallen so many times, with as many times and more having been helped back up. I leave with priceless trust and faith, the kind that can only come from the experience of starting with so little.
All of this trust and faith builds a certain kind of courage, the kind that I will need very soon as I figure out what's next for me.
Meanwhile, still safely being surrounded by close friends, working with them to better our community and groups beyond that, it is most definitely going to be hard to leave MIT.
But I definitely won't be leaving without taking the immense love everyone has shared with me, into the world.
So to them,
And so, many, many more,
Thank you for letting me wake up into this dream that is my life today that still has hope for tomorrow.
(Follow-up post to come on post-graduation blogging plans, don't worry, there'll be more for sure. As always, feel free to say hi at email@example.com)